Army officials have identified the Green Beret who died in a training accident Tuesday at the Army’s Special Forces Underwater Operations School on Naval Air Station Key West, in Florida.
Officials also said that an earlier Army news release calling the incident a drowning mishap was premature, and an inquiry is still looking into how the soldier died after a water treading event at the combat diver course.
Staff Sgt. Micah Walker, 31, was a Green Beret medical sergeant assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Carson, Colorado, according to a press release from 1st Special Forces Command.
Walker graduated from the Special Forces Qualification Course in January 2021 before he became a student at the combat diver course, which falls under the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School — more commonly known as SWCS.
Walker was a father of three, the release said, and he is also survived by his wife.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and children, his parents, and his teammates,” said 10th Special Forces Group commander Col. Lucas VanAntwerp. “Micah was an exceptional Special Forces Operator, a loving husband, and father. We grieve with the family and stand ready to honor Micah’s service and his legacy.”
Cause of death unclear
An initial press release from the Army’s Combat Readiness Center indicated that Walker died in a “drowning mishap.”
That conclusion was disputed by an official under SWCS, who described the circumstances of Walker’s death to Army Times on condition of anonymity due to an ongoing investigation.
Walker became unresponsive during a water treading event where all of the students were on the surface of a pool, the official said, noting that successful completion of an identical training event is also a prerequisite for attendance.
The dive school had multiple safety swimmers in the pool and medical professionals on stand by with an ambulance staged 10 feet away from the pool, according to the official.
The official said the safety swimmers had Walker out of the pool within 3-5 seconds of losing consciousness and slipping underwater.
The cadre at the dive school rehearse safety drills before each course iteration, the official said, including “full [medical evacuations].”
Within five minutes, Walker was in an ambulance on the way to the Lower Keys Medical Center Emergency Room, where he arrived approximately 20 minutes after first losing consciousness, according to the SWCS official.
“There was no indication of duress,” the official said. “He was performing all of the tasks extremely well.”
An official SWCS spokesperson confirmed that CRC’s cause of death announcement had been “premature” when contacted by Army Times.
“The incident is under investigation and at this time, no autopsy has been conducted, and no cause of death has been announced by the appropriate officials,” said Janice Burton, a SWCS spokesperson. “It was premature for anyone to announce a cause of death. As a command, we will not conjecture on the cause of death. We will wait until official findings have been announced.”
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood's WWII movies.